This is the text of a paper given at the the Humanities Institute of the University of California at Santa Cruz on 22 May 2019
The story which I’m about to tell you today is the history —or, rather, la historia, which in the Spanish language means both story and history— of how Miguel de Cervantes’ novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, or, in English, The Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha, was translated into Arabic.
Two weeks ago, after I finished writing this first paragraph in my study room in Mexico City, I began reading it out loud to myself to test how it may sound to you. However, back then in Mexico City, as I reached the written word “Quixote,” how it is written in English —Q U I X O T E— my reading was interrupted by the silence of the following question: How am I to pronounce to you, in English, the name of our world-famous caballero? Am I going to pronounce it, here in Santa Cruz, as دون كيهوتِ, as some of my north-American friends do —with an “h” sound in the middle— or the Anglicized دون كْويكْسوتِ, the way many English-language speakers in Britain, to my surprise, still do?